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Federal Government Drops Bid to Keep $850K Seized in Two I-80 Traffic Stops in Pennsylvania

pexels-karolina-grabowska-4386431-300x200Two years ago, Wei Lin and Jian Yang, both of Texas, were pulled over and searched by Pennsylvania State Police. They collectively had over $850,000 seized from them by FBI agents.

In both cases, the cash was seized using civil asset forfeiture—a legal practice that allows law enforcement agencies to confiscate cash, vehicles, real estate, and more if they believe it is connected to criminal activity. FBI agents reportedly suspected the cash was drug money, even though there is no record of criminal charges being filed against the suspects.

The federal government filed a civil forfeiture complaint in October 2018, seeking approval from a judge to keep the $850,594 that was seized. Records show the two Texans filed their own claim in the U.S. Middle District Court requesting the federal government return their money.

According to news sources, both suspects contend that the $850,594 was either their money or cash they borrowed to buy a restaurant in either New York City or Chicago. One of the two suspects was reportedly stopped by troopers on Interstate 80 on February 21, 2018, in Montour County, and investigators seized $360,600 from him. The second suspect was pulled over on I-80 in a rental vehicle on April 30, 2018, in Columbia County, and troopers took $489,994 during that stop, sources indicate.

During the February stop, the defendant allegedly told the troopers she was going to visit her father in New York City. After obtaining consent to search the rental car, troopers purportedly found no luggage, but they did find numerous bundles of cash in a backpack and duffle bag. Lin did not reveal who was the owner of the money, the government filing claims.

The defendant in the February search rented the car to the other defendant in the first stop, according to sources. He was pulled over and searched by troopers on I-80 two months later in April. With the help of a drug detection dog, the troopers allegedly found a box containing vacuum-sealed bags of cash in the trunk. When questioned about it, the second defendant reportedly claimed he got at least $280,000 from the sale of a restaurant in Louisiana and $100,000 from his recent wedding, and the rest was his personal savings. He told investigators he only deals in cash to avoid banks and taxes, according to the government’s forfeiture filing.

An ion scan of the money seized in both stops revealed higher-than-average trace amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine, the government claims. Cell phone images and flight records reportedly show that bo0th of the accused have a history of repeated visits to New York and Chicago, which authorities suggest indicates a bulk cash smuggling operation.

For reasons that are unclear, the federal government now no longer wants to keep the seized money. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn A. Camoni has asked the U.S. Middle District Court to dismiss the motion for forfeiture of the cash held by the FBI. He did not provide a reason for the decision and did not clarify to the press if a criminal investigation is underway. So far, no one has been charged in the case, and it is unclear if the suspects will get their money back.

Cases of civil forfeiture like this can often take years to litigate, which is why it is vital for individuals who have had their cash seized by troopers or federal agents during traffic stops or at airports to seek the assistance of an experienced civil forfeiture defense attorney. A good lawyer can fight for your rights during every step of the asset recovery process.

Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

Have police or federal agents seized your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.

Source: 1.26.21 government drops bid to keep $850K seized in two I-80 traffic stops.pdf

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